Before moon landing, astronauts learned geology in Arizona

In this June 27, 2019 photo, Gerald Schaber, a former geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center, points to a hill on the moon that bears his name in a photograph hanging in his Flagstaff, Ariz., office. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
This 1968 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center shows craters being created in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz. Astronauts who walked on the moon used the site for training. (U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center via AP)
This June 28, 2019 photo shows a fenced-off field of craters in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz., that was used as a training site for astronauts who landed on the moon. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center shows Apollo 15 astronauts Jim Irwin, left, and Dave Scott driving a prototype of a lunar rover in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz. The rover, named Grover, now is on display at the science center. (U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center via AP)
This June 28, 2019 photo shows a fenced-off field of craters in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz., that was used as a training site for astronauts who landed on the moon. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
This 1968 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center shows man-made craters in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz. Astronauts who walked on the moon used the site for training. (U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center via AP)
In this June 25, 2019 photo, Lauren Edgar, a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., poses in front of a prototype of a lunar rover. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
In this June 25, 2019 photo. Lauren Edgar, a research geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., poses in front of a prototype of a lunar rover that was used to train astronauts in northern Arizona. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
This June 28, 2019 photo shows a fenced-off field of craters in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz., that was used as a training site for astronauts who landed on the moon. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)
This 1968 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center shows man-made craters in a volcanic cinder field east of Flagstaff, Ariz. Astronauts who walked on the moon used the site for training. (U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center via AP)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew they'd be the first to walk on the moon, they took crash courses in geology in northern Arizona.

They hiked the Grand Canyon and visited a nearby impact crater to learn about layers of rocks and taking samples.

Astronauts on later Apollo missions studied volcanic cinder fields east of Flagstaff where hundreds of craters were blown from the landscape intentionally to replicate the lunar surface and tested rovers.

Today, astronaut candidates still train in and around Flagstaff.

The city is joining others nationwide in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969, with tours, exhibits, talks and moon-themed food and art.

Apollo 17 astronaut Charlie Duke will be the keynote speaker at a Flagstaff science festival later this year.

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